Pneumatic nerve root compression: Epidural gas in association with lateral disc herniation. Report of two cases

T. M. Cheng, M. J. Link, B. M. Onofrio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Extreme lateral disc herniations are increasingly recognized as a cause of lumbar nerve root compression syndromes. This disorder often presents major diagnostic and therapeutic challenges, especially in the presence of multiple degenerative changes and chronic back pain in elderly patients. The authors describe two patients with presentations and findings that have not been previously described in the literature. Both patients had histories of upper lumbar back and leg pain. Degenerative spine disease, gaseous degeneration of the intervertebral discs, and epidural gas in the lateral recesses were noted on imaging studies. However, because both patients had undergone prior epidural diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, the epidural gas in the lateral recesses could be attributed either to gaseous disc degeneration or to the previous intraspinal procedures. One patient was found to have a large, far lateral extruded disc fragment that contained air. The nerve root in the second patient was impaled by an unusual combination of a small extruded disc fragment as well as an air-filled sac that was surrounded by the walled-off fragment's capsule and which freely communicated with the gaseous degenerated disc space. The suspected mechanism of root compression is illustrated and discussed. The possibility of disc herniation should be seriously considered in cases of nerve root compression in which epidural gas is present, especially those associated with gaseous degenerated discs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)453-458
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of neurosurgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1994


  • epidural gas
  • invertebral disc herniation
  • lumbar spine
  • nerve root compression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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